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My heart goes PING! Wait, no it doesn't.

I say this as someone with a long history of generally eating whatever Apple feels like feeding me: Ping, the new iTunes-based (well, really, iTunes Music Store-based) "social networking" application, is a dud wrapped up in a failure tucked inside a waste of time.

I don't even really mind that it's not so much a social networking tool as it is an excuse for people to buy more shit from the iTunes Music Store; Apple has mouths to feed and lobbyists to pay off just like e'rrbody else. But the fact that it's ONLY an excuse to get people to go to the iTunes Music Store -- that is, that its functionality outside of it is limited to agreeing or disagreeing with what Katy Perry or Rick Rubin think is a good single -- makes it pretty worthless, and not much of an improvement on just going to the Music Store and putting in a rating like you could before.

It's pretty counter-intuitive from the jump-off; the fact that none of the materials tell you how you can actually do the one interesting thing (rate and review albums), and that you have to figure out by trial and error that you do it by going to the iTunes Music Store and posting from a song or album's page, makes it feel all the more like you're just participating in a cheap marketing ploy. Same goes for the "we gave these celebrities a big check" feel of the extremely limited number of people you can choose to 'follow' a la Twitter, and the fact that you can only review music that is for sale via the iTunes Music Store. It seems to completely lack that 'whoa, cool' quality that Apple is so good at, that ability to make you think you're seeing something you've never seen before. While Google Wave seemed incomprehensible -- no one was ever able to figure out exactly what you were supposed to do with the thing -- Ping seems all too comprehensible, all too obvious, all to clearly nothing more than a fancied-up way of getting you in front of a "buy me now!" button.

I can see some potential for it, if people start using it for reasons other than Apple paid them to do so. In fact, I could see a great way for it to be a cool musical networking tool: if it let you go into your existing iTunes music library, write reviews there, and have those reviews uploaded to your Ping page, that would be real social networking. As it stands now, though, Ping sounds a lot like one of those poorly-thought-out, overly hyped projects we usually get from Microsoft, right down to the suspiciously familiar name.

Comments

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ladyuranus
Sep. 3rd, 2010 07:01 am (UTC)
Agreed. I'm also annoyed that iTunes 10 forces me to show album covers in the song name listings-- it takes up space and most of my songs don't have covers. Regardless, I could see the covers in the silly-picture box to the left.

If Ping took a queue from Twitter it might be fun, but as it is it seems a waste of an update.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 8th, 2010 03:42 am (UTC)
On the other hand....
You seem to have bought a fair bit over the Apple Store since you posted, and I, after following you on Ping, got Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk (admittedly, this was after confirming that it was unavailable over Emusic.) Last.FM and a Facebook plug-in link directly to what you play. I think Apple would probably face a million privacy complaints if they did that. And if they allowed you to choose songs from your library to "like", they'd face the problem of what to do if it's not in the iTunes store (you encounter that if you ever hit 'Genius' on a song they don't have, or haven't been offering for long enough to link to other music.) What if the song name is misspelled slightly or put in the wrong genre? It's generally Apple's policy to take the most draconian method if they can't get things precisely the way they'd like- which is what it took so long for them to put "Cut and Paste" on the iPhone.

Anyway, there's a more positive view of Ping's potential here:


http://www.appleoutsider.com/2010/09/07/ping/

but even there the author notes that they put much more design energy into the iPhone interface than the iTunes desktop. Which makes sense because on the iPhone you're completely locked into buying music through Apple.

And they are gradually getting better at incorporating artists I actually listen to into the "People you should follow" section.

-David Rothschild
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Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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